Why playing PS3 games on a PS5 is way harder than it looks

PlayStation Plus Premium will give gamers access to a library of classic PlayStation, PS2 and PS3 titles from June, which is exciting as the PS5 is currently only backwards compatible with the PS4. Unfortunately, it comes with a caveat: all PS3 games must be streamed from the cloud and cannot be played natively on the console.

We’re over 15 years away from the launch of the PS3, and there’s still no good way to play many classic PS3 titles like Infamous Where Solid metal gear 4 on modern platforms. Sony is content to continue the PlayStation Now approach for PS3 games with PlayStation Plus Premium. This stands out when Xbox and Nintendo do a relatively good job of natively emulating or remastering games from older systems for modern platforms.

To find out why PS3 games are so difficult to integrate with modern consoles, I spoke to Whatcookie, a contributor to the popular PS3 emulator RPCS3. Whatcookie, who chose not to share his name, is also known for creating a 60fps patch for the PS3 version of Demon’s Souls. He explained what makes PS3 emulation particularly frustrating and explains why Sony instead just streams PS3 games from the cloud.


The system architectures of the PS4 and PS5 are so similar that it’s not much of a problem running PS4 titles on Sony’s latest system, with a few exceptions. Compared to this, the PS3 has a different processor that has more in common with the PS2 than with modern Sony systems.

In short, the PS3’s CELL microprocessor had some very unique capabilities, which meant that developers relied too much on the processor at the time. This approach ultimately makes PS3 games harder to emulate. Whatcookie detailed all of this for digital trends.

“The engine of emotion of the PS2 as well as the CELL in the PS3 are both designed to perform floating-point calculations as fast as possible, at the cost of other aspects of performance,” explains Whatcookie. “The CELL even outperforms the PS4 CPU in floating point performance, but loses every other measurable aspect of performance.”

The PS3’s particularly powerful processor already makes it an odd system, but the PS3 could also move 128 bytes atomically and had a weaker GPU than the Xbox 360. This combination led to an odd post-processing solution for the developers whom Whatcookie called “unfriendly”. to emulation,” where developers would offload post-processing to the CPU.

“This means moving a rendered image from the GPU to main memory, emulating the post-processing code, and finally moving the image to GPU memory from main memory, where the GPU will draw the UI onto the image. processed and finally present that image to the screen,” explains Whatcookie. “This kind of round tripping is very unfriendly to modern GPUs, where post-processing a 720p image would likely be faster than moving the image to main memory, not to mention all the other steps.”

These extra steps on a function that developers would typically add to the GPU make emulation difficult. However, a large team dedicated to RPCS3 has worked hard to create a working emulator for modern PCs. According to Whatcookie, it’s entirely possible to run PS3 emulation on a PS5.

“The PS5’s processor is much faster, and combined with the kind of shortcuts commercial emulator developers make – the official PS2 emulator on PS4 has plenty of game-specific fixes and hacks – it should be possible to reach full speed on all the games they choose to release.

So why isn’t Sony making the effort to fix these issues and get a proper and working PS3 emulation on PS5?

Simply because you can…

Getting PS3 emulation to work natively on PS5 is technically possible, so that’s not why Sony isn’t taking this approach with PlayStation Plus Premium. Sony’s decision to stick with cloud technology for PS3 games seems to be a matter of time, cost and effort.

Whatcookie points out that Sony only needs to emulate certain games to make the investment not worth it.

“Community emulators like RPCS3 aim to run 100% of the console library, but commercial emulators only need to emulate the limited percentage of the library that is allowed for online resale,” he says. “The biggest obstacle to this approach is that the game-specific work required can approach the cost of just porting the game. Considering that performance will always be lower than a native port, this becomes difficult to justify.

“The biggest impact on progress will always be developer activity, not the difficulty of emulating a specific system.”

At a time when high-priced remasters and re-releases are coming, creating a native emulation for these games on a service that only some hardcore fans will use probably doesn’t have a great return on investment. As Sony already has pre-existing PS3 cloud gaming technology with PlayStation Now, Whatcookie points out that going back to the drawing board with emulation isn’t worth the bother.

“When you consider that the PS3 is already available via PS Now and a large majority of the top selling PS3 titles are already playable on PS5 via PS4 remasters, it becomes difficult to justify the cost of building an emulator by in relation to game porting. not on PS4 or PS5 yet,” he says.

If Sony wants to emulate a PS3 game for PS5, it would probably be a more interesting and lucrative effort to remaster the game. games, those who do not have access to technologyand those who just don’t like cloud gaming.

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While the PS3 is certainly an odd beast due to the way its CPU and GPU work, RPCS3 shows that PS3 emulation can run on modern PCs and that technical issues aren’t what’s holding emulation and performance back. preservation of the game on modern Sony consoles. As Whatacookie makes clear, this effort falls to Sony and the developers.

“Most platforms are hard to imitate,” he said. “The biggest impediment to progress in emulation is the number of developers willing and able to work on emulation for a given system…Since any emulation is difficult, not just PS3 emulation, the greatest impact on progress will always be the activity of the developers, not the difficulty of emulating a specific system.

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